Interim Bishop State Community College President James Lowe has sent letters informing 13 employees of the school’s intent to fire them and two-year system Chancellor Bradley Byrne says more terminations are on the way.
Lowe took over as interim president Wednesday following Yvonne Kennedy’s retirement a day earlier from the historically Black college.
“Now that we have control of the school, we’ve got to go through and start making some hard personnel decisions,” Byrne told the Press-Register editorial board Friday.
During the meeting, he described Bishop State as “the biggest problem in the state,” the paper reported Saturday.
All but three of the employees who were sent letters Wednesday have been charged by the District Attorney’s Office with theft of financial aid.
Over the past year, Bishop State has been placed on probation by its accrediting agency, and 27 people associated with the college have been accused of stealing more than $200,000 in financial aid and sports program money.
People who have worked for the state’s community college system for three or more years qualify for tenure protections and can be fired only if the college follows specific procedures and allows for appeal to an arbitrator, under the Fair Dismissal Act.
“I’m not concerned about our having an adequate basis” for termination, Byrne said. “I’m just concerned about this bizarre process and some of the bizarre results we’ve gotten from some of the arbitrators.”
The two-year system has been embroiled in criminal investigations and allegations of wrongdoing since former Chancellor Roy Johnson was removed by the state school board in July 2006 amid allegations of nepotism.
Byrne said he did not know if the FBI had been on Bishop State’s campus but said the system’s biggest problems are at the Mobile school.
High demand for construction, aviation and maritime workers, in addition to ThyssenKrupp AG’s announcement that it will create a new 2,700-worker steel plant in Mobile County, have all increased the demand for skilled labor in the area.
Before the system can focus on work force development needs to fill such openings, Byrne said, it must provide adult education to many Alabamians.
But “adult education, which is a huge part of what we do, is a disaster,” he said. “If we can’t do any better than what we’re doing in adult education, we need to give the money back to the Legislature and say, ‘We’re incompetent.’”
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